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Despite Stanley Cup, Blackhawks Still Losing Money

The Chicago Tribune reports in its Friday editions that the Hawks are still losing money despite their Stanley Cup championship:

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Season ticket prices will increase by an average of 20 percent this fall, which is projected to rocket them from the second-cheapest in the National Hockey League three seasons ago to among the 10 most expensive, according to the team. And fans should expect “more modest” increases in the future, team owner Rocky Wirtz said.

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Wirtz first revealed that the team was not profitable in private. “It’s going to take four (or) five years before we can actually get back in the black,” Wirtz said at an April 19 forum at the Economic Club of Chicago, according to a transcript. “And right now we’re still supporting the Blackhawks with our other Wirtz organizations.”

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In a follow-up interview this week, Wirtz said that the Blackhawks ran out of cash several times last season. Each time, he received a memo, known as an internal capital call, in which the team requested money from Wirtz Corp., the Blackhawks’ parent company, to cover operating expenses. And at the end of the season, Wirtz said he double-checked that the playoffs did not cover those losses; the franchise remained in the red, the team’s accountant told him.

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Not good news for hockey fans still suffering the effects of the current recession. Rocky Wirtz has some ideas on how to make money besides ticket price increases:

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Wirtz said the plan is to increase sponsorships, the one traditional revenue source with room to grow; slowly raise ticket prices; draft well; and pay a premium for premium players so the team can contend for the Stanley Cup every year.

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But he admits that’s the hard way.

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The easiest way to make money from an NHL franchise, Wirtz said, is to sell it.

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And he has no intention of doing that. He said he plans to leave the franchise to his children “in better shape than I found it.”

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Good for you, Rocky. And good for the Blackhawks and their fans.